The names in the credits say "quality drama," but this adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's final, unfinished novel is old-fashioned, not classic. Monroe sails through the office like a lesser Don Draper, barking out orders to secretaries and scriptwriters as women giggle and gawk in his wake. Everyone, it seems, can't stop talking about Monroe Stahr, something another character literally says at one point. Except he's not that fascinating to the viewer. So it quickly grows irritating hearing how brilliant and magnetic and heroic he is, despite a scene designed to show us he's fragile, too: "He has a congenital defect in his aorta," says Pat. "One day his heart's literally going to explode." Do we hear a clumsy metaphor?
It's always fun seeing elegant parties, women in satin, live jazz bands, and vintage Hollywood back lots with costumed extras. But The Last Tycoon is no Great Gatsby, not even close. The characters, too thinly drawn, don't land; they come off as props making speeches about Hollywood's many sins (Fitzgerald was a frustrated screenwriter, after all). One final, nitpicky detail: In a movie set in the 1930s, the women are styled in a very modern way. Lily Collins' full brows would have looked mighty odd in an era when thin, plucked arches (think Greta Garbo) were all the rage; other characters wear similarly period-incorrect shades and styles. It's the kind of small detail that a show like Mad Men always got right, and clumsier dramas don't. Maybe that's why Don Draper is an original, and Monroe Stahr, despite being written decades earlier, comes off like a poor imitation.